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Landlord-Tenant Laws in Los Angeles

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Understanding Landlord-Tenant Laws in Los Angeles: 2024 Essentials for Renters & Property Owners

Are you up-to-date with the evolving landlord-tenant laws in California? Whether you’re a renter seeking to understand your rights or a property owner managing your responsibilities, EJP Law, P.C. is here to help you navigate any legal waters. Are you in the midst of a landlord-tenant dispute in Los Angeles? Contact our office now to schedule your consultation.

Key Takeaways

  • Landlord-tenant laws in California govern application fees, criminal record evaluation for applicants, and do not require a state business license for renting a property.
  • Rental agreements in California encompass rent payment protocols-including late fees, 30 to 60 days notice for rent hikes, security deposits rules with a 21-day return policy, and lease modification and termination provisions.
  • Tenants in California have rights to habitable living conditions, including proper heating, ventilation, and sanitation, as well as lawful property access but landlords may only enter without notice in emergency situations or if the property is abandoned.

Navigating California Landlord-Tenant Law

Landlord-tenant laws serve as the framework that upholds the delicate equilibrium in the landlord-tenant relationship. They are the lifeblood that sustains healthy interactions, enabling landlords to secure their investments and cultivate positive relationships with tenants. For prospective tenants, these laws are the shield that safeguards their right to a dignified, livable residential space.

Landlords in the Golden State are allowed to impose nonrefundable application fees and are required to provide applicants with an itemized breakdown of costs. When evaluating an applicant’s criminal record, they must adhere to fair practices, making sure not to deny applicants solely based on past convictions unrelated to the rental. The California Civil Code Title 5 Chapter 2 provides an in-depth understanding of these regulations. It eliminates the need for a state business license to rent a property, making it a one-stop shop for comprehending the laws governing rental properties in California.

Key Aspects of Rental Agreements in California

A rental agreement is more than just a piece of paper; it’s the blueprint of the landlord-tenant relationship for a rental property. Like any blueprint, it’s composed of intricate details that construct the whole picture.

In California, these details stem from rent payment protocols, security deposit stipulations, and rules around lease modification and termination – all of which we will explore next.

Rent Payment Protocols

Rent payments protocols are the gears that keep the machinery of a rental agreement running smoothly. In California, landlords have the authority to impose late fees for overdue rent, governed by state law, making it crucial for tenants to pay rent on time and not to withhold rent.

Here are the regulations for late fees and bounced checks:

  • Landlords can apply a fee of $25 for the first bounced check
  • Landlords can apply a fee of $35 for subsequent bounced checks
  • There is no mandatory grace period for rent payment

These regulations are set in stone within the rental agreement, providing clarity for both parties.

However, payment methods aren’t always set in stone. If a tenant has issued a bounced check or stopped payment on a check in the last three months, landlords can ask for cash payments. But without a valid reason, demanding cash payments might infringe upon the California landlord-tenant laws.

Rent adjustments are also subject to regulation. Landlords can adjust rent once annually, but they must provide at least 30 days’ notice or 60 days’ notice if the increase surpasses 10% of the lowest amount paid within the previous 12 months.

Security Deposit Stipulations

A security deposit is like a safety net, providing protection for both landlords and tenants. But how high can this net be cast? Effective July 1, 2024, landlords can charge up to one month’s rent for both furnished and unfurnished units under the new legislation of AB 12. However, small landlords have an exception that allows them to charge up to two months’ rent.

Once the tenancy ends, the clock starts ticking. Landlords are required to return the security deposit within 21 days. This timeframe is specified by law. From this total, they can deduct expenses for unpaid rent or damage costs, but not without providing an itemized statement of what’s been deducted. Before the tenants move out, landlords can conduct a pre-move-out inspection to identify potential deductions from the security deposit, allowing tenants ample opportunity to rectify any issues.

While security deposits provide a safety net, they’re not a golden egg for landlords. Nonrefundable security deposits are prohibited in California, and landlords aren’t required to pay interest on these deposits. These laws strike a balance between ensuring tenant affordability and protection while upholding the rights of landlords to mitigate potential losses from damages, unpaid rent, or necessary cleaning.

Lease Modification and Termination Rules

Like a well-tailored suit, a lease agreement needs to fit both the landlord and tenant. Sometimes, this means making some adjustments along the way. In California, lease agreements can be either oral or written, with agreements that last more than a year needing to be in written form. If a lease term isn’t specified, California law assumes it to be a month-to-month tenancy.

Modifying a lease necessitates a 30-day written notice for month-to-month tenancies or a 90-day notice for rent increases exceeding 10%. These modifications can be formalized by executing a new lease or signing a written lease modification agreement.

But what happens when the lease ends? Both landlords and tenants can terminate the lease once it has reached its expiration date. Additionally, a tenant can terminate a lease before its expiration date given specific circumstances. If the property is sold, a 30-days notice is necessary for lease termination.

When a landlord accepts rent from a tenant after the lease term has expired, it generally signifies a renewal of the lease under the previous terms.

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Tenant Rights to Privacy and Habitability

In the realm of tenancy, rights are the compass that guides tenants through the complex terrain of renting. Two crucial rights that tenants in California have are the right to habitable living conditions and lawful property access.

Let’s explore these rights in greater detail.

Habitable Living Conditions

Everyone deserves a safe and comfortable place to call home. That’s where the implied warranty of habitability comes into play. This warranty mandates landlords to provide safe, well-maintained living spaces. A dwelling is deemed uninhabitable if it significantly lacks features such as:

  • effective waterproofing
  • weather protection
  • proper heating and ventilation
  • functioning plumbing and electrical systems
  • absence of pests and vermin
  • adequate sanitation facilities

These conditions jeopardize the health or safety of tenants.

But maintaining habitable living conditions isn’t just a landlord’s responsibility. It’s a dance that requires both parties to move in tandem. Landlords are required to ensure that the property meets all health and safety codes and make necessary repairs. In return, tenants are expected to maintain cleanliness and use property features in an intended and non-abusive manner. In California, the law also provides occupancy requirements that ensure reasonable standards for the number of individuals per square foot.

Lawful Property Access

While landlords own the property, they don’t hold the keys to unrestricted access. In California, landlords are only allowed to enter a rental unit without giving notice in the event of an emergency that poses a serious threat to health, safety, or property, or if the tenant has abandoned the property. For non-emergency property access, landlords must provide written notice at least 24 hours in advance.

But what constitutes a reasonable notice? Generally, a 24-hour notice is considered reasonable for most non-emergency property access. For the initial move-out inspection, a 48-hours notice is deemed reasonable. However, landlords should tread carefully. Actions like excessively intruding upon a tenant’s privacy or engaging in disruptive behavior that disrupts the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of their home can be deemed as harassment.

Understanding Eviction Procedures

Eviction is the storm every tenant hopes to avoid and every landlord hopes they’ll never have to initiate. However, it’s crucial to understand the grounds for eviction and eviction notice requirements in case the storm clouds gather.

Let’s explore these aspects in more depth.

Grounds for Eviction

Evictions are the last resort in landlord-tenant disputes. But when they become unavoidable, it’s essential to understand the legal grounds on which they can be initiated. The main legal grounds for evicting a tenant in California are non-payment of rent and lease violations.

When the ground for eviction is a lease violation, the landlord issues a three-day notice to cure or quit to the tenant. This notice gives the tenant a three-day period to rectify the violation or vacate the premises. In cases of serious violations, such as:

  • illegal subletting
  • creating a nuisance
  • engaging in illegal activity
  • causing significant damage

an unconditional quit notice gives tenants a three-day period to vacate the premises without the option to remedy the violation.

Eviction Notice Requirements

An eviction notice is the first step in the eviction process. But it’s not as simple as slipping a note under the door. In California, a notice period of at least 30 days is required for at-will tenants, and a 60-day notice is required for tenants who have been renting for more than a year.

Issuing a 3-day eviction notice is warranted when a tenant has breached the lease terms or defaulted on rent payment. This notice mandates the tenant to rectify the violation or settle the outstanding rent within three days, failing which they must vacate the premises. The eviction notice should be appropriately served either through personal delivery, substituted service, or by posting the notice on the property and mailing it to the tenant.

Local Rent Control Ordinances

Rent control ordinances, also known as local rent control laws, are the strings that control the puppet show of the rental market. In cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose, these ordinances limit how much landlords can raise rent, thus directly affecting their rental income.

Enter the California Tenant Protection Act to the stage. This act imposes a cap on rent increases at 5% plus inflation or 10% of the lowest price paid in the last 12 months, whichever is lower. Each city, however, dances to its own tune. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Jose each have their specific regulations governing rent control laws.

The Repair and Deduct Remedy

The repair and deduct remedy is like a secret weapon in a tenant’s arsenal. In California, this remedy allows tenants to make necessary repairs and deduct the cost from their rent.

But like any weapon, it must be used wisely. Tenants can utilize the repair and deduct remedy when repairs are deemed necessary to address a breach of California’s implied warranty of habitability. However, there’s a limit to its use. A tenant can use this remedy twice in any 12-month period, and the maximum deduction allowed is one month’s rent.

Landlords’ Obligations and Tenants’ Protections

Being a landlord is more than just collecting rent, and being a tenant is more than just paying it. With each role come responsibilities and protections, encapsulated in the required disclosures for rental units and the implications of the Tenant Protection Act.

Let’s explore these aspects further.

Required Disclosures for Rental Units

Transparency is the key to trust in any relationship, including that of a landlord and tenant. Landlords are legally obligated to disclose certain information to their tenants. This includes:

  • Information about a prior occupant who passed away in the rental unit within the previous three years
  • Their application for a demolition permit
  • Any known methamphetamine contamination
  • Notice of pest control treatments

In addition to these, landlords also have a responsibility to reveal any known hazardous conditions in their properties. Some examples of hazardous conditions include:

  • The presence of mold
  • Structural issues
  • Pest infestations
  • Lead paint
  • Asbestos

This makes sure that tenants are fully aware of the condition of the property they are moving into.

However, failing to fulfill these disclosures comes with its consequences. When a landlord fails to provide these mandatory disclosures, they may be subject to a minimum fine of $1,000 as well as a potential daily liability of $10 for the late filing of statements or reports.

Tenant Protection Act Implications

The Tenant Protection Act is like a shield that guards tenants against unjust practices. Introduced in 2019, this act imposes limits on rent hikes for the majority of tenants in California and offers safeguards against unjust evictions.

The act’s principal stipulations include:

  • Rent control
  • Just cause for eviction protections
  • Limits on rent increases
  • Protections from evictions without cause
  • Relocation fees

This has a significant impact on rent control in California, as it provides statewide tenant protections.

The act also protects tenants against evictions by mandating that landlords must have a valid reason, referred to as just cause, for eviction. If tenants are displaced, they can pursue legal action against landlords for wrongful eviction and seek compensation for rent differentials or loss of use.

Contact Our Los Angeles Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Today

Navigating the labyrinth of California landlord-tenant laws can seem like a daunting task. But with a clear understanding of the key aspects of rental agreements, tenant rights, eviction procedures, and landlord obligations, you can confidently steer your ship. Whether you’re a landlord seeking to protect your investment or a tenant striving for a dignified living space, EJP Law, P.C. is here for you. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.